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Motorcycles come in a variety of types, styles and specifications, each purpose-built for a specific goal and having distinct characteristics such as riding position, handling, engine performance and the like. What kind of a motorcycle you buy/ride will depend on your needs – touring, commuting, off-roading, track racing, etc. Motorcycle riding styles and riding position vary from bike to bike. No two different types of bikes can be compared with each other.
The following is a description of each type of bike available:
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- Engine – Engine sizes range from 100cc to 1000cc, with strong low-end and mid range performance for ease of riding in the city and commuting
- Not designed for any specific purpose, have all around capabilities
- Riding position – Upright, comfortable riding position, mid-range handlebars, average seat height (read more about body position)
- Easy handling, decent acceleration and braking
- Good choice for beginner riders
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- Engine – Characterized by high performance engines having decent mid range and strong top end performance and high engine power. Engine sizes range from 125cc to 1400cc (as of this time of writing). Understand more about a motorcycle engine. Super bikes come under this category. These machines epitomize the phrase, “with power, comes responsibility”.
- Streamlined bodywork, equipped with aerodynamically designed fairing to improve high speed stability and reduce wind resistance
- Excellent cornering, precise handling and swerving, strong braking and quick acceleration capabilities (learn how counter steering works)
- High power-to-weight ratio. Ideal for fast/spirited riding, track racing.
- Riding position – Forward leaning riding position which places the riders’ arms far out forward and feet backwards and upwards (rear-positioned footrests), low-range handlebars (majority of such bikes use clip-on handlebars), average seat height. Know more about sportbike riding position.
- Best for intermediate and advanced level riders
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- Engine – Characterized by high torque, cruiser engines are tuned to offer high torque at low RPMs, making frequent gear shifting unnecessary, unlike in a sport bike
- Purpose built for cruising and long distance ride comfort
- Limited cornering ability, primarily due to lack of ground clearance
- Good stability in a straight line due to long wheelbase
- Riding position – Low seat height and laid-back riding position (rearward-leaning), typically with feet forward, mid to high range handlebars which are swept backwards
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- Engine – Characterized by large, powerful and torquey engines, can easily carry luggage and 2 occupants
- Purpose-built to cover long distances at high speeds in extreme comfort. Have a large fuel tank and usually have wind-deflecting fairings.
- Riding position – Relaxed, upright seating position, mid range handlebars, low and wide seat
- Heavy, bulky motorcycles equipped with large front fairing and windscreen to improve aerodynamic efficiency and protect the rider from wind blast and environmental elements. Luggage carriers and creature comforts like heated grips, cruise control, stereo system, etc. are also present.
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Sport touring motorcycle
- Engine – Powerful engines with the right balance of power and torque for performance oriented touring.
- Purpose built for sport-oriented touring, these bikes combine attributes of sport bikes and tourers
- Excellent handling, braking and acceleration
- Riding position – Upright neutral seating position, mid range handlebars, average seat height
- Equipped with front fairing and windscreen to improve aerodynamic efficiency and protect the rider from wind blast and environmental elements, luggage carriers and may also have creature comforts like heated grips, cruise control, stereo system, etc.
- Ideal for intermediate and advanced level riders (Explore advanced skills to level up your riding)
Dual purpose/Adventure sport motorcycle
- Engine – High torque, high horsepower engines designed for on road as well as off-road usage
- Designed to be ridden in both, on-road and off-road situations, known for their ruggedness and off-roading ability. Tires are designed to provide grip on dirt as well as pavement
- Can be fitted with saddle bags for carrying luggage
- Characterized by tall seat height and upright seating position, high ground clearance, long travel (tall) suspension & high center of gravity
Riding gear is recommended, specially for off road riding. Check this section on riding gear before heading out.
Enduro (street legal version of off-road motorcycles)
- Engine – Usually come with single cylinder engines with average power and torque rating, characterized by high acceleration figures
- Lightweight motorcycles characterized by high seat height, tall suspension and high ground clearance
- Purpose built for serious off roading, rough terrains and mountain biking, extremely rugged, go-anywhere ability, contain some form of engine protection to prevent grounding
- Uncomfortable and narrow seating, small fuel tank
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- Engine – Small engine capacity, usually single cylinder engines with less power and torque, engine is usually part of the swingarm (Honda Activa and TVS Jupiter are quite popular in India)
- Characterized by a step-through frame and automatic transmission (Continuously Variable Transmission or CVT)
- Best suited for city riding, easy to ride and maintain, have built-in storage space
- All-enclosing bodywork makes them cleaner and quieter than motorcycles, wheels are much smaller than those of motorcycles
- Riding position – Mid range handlebars with upright neutral riding position, easy accommodation, very comfortable
- Engine – Powerful engines, higher engine capacity than scooters (single and multi cylinder engines, both available), engine is usually part of the swingarm
- All-enclosing bodywork makes them cleaner and quieter than motorcycles, wheels are smaller than those of motorcycles
- Have a lot of built-in storage space
- Characterized by by step-through frame and automatic transmission (Continuously Variable Transmission or CVT), ideal for city riding as well as high speed highway riding
- Riding position – Mid range handlebars with upright neutral riding position, large floorboard for easy accommodation, ease of riding, very comfortable
There is a bike available for every type of rider. No motorcycle is better or worse than another, it all depends on how you intend to use it. Know about the various types of motorcycle licences.
* Some of the above motorcycles/scooters may not have been launched in India, at this time of writing.
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Questions about types of motorcycles
- How do I decide which type of motorcycle I want to buy?
Assess your needs – is it going to be a daily highway ride or occasional city rides? Is it only for office commuting or is it purely for road trips?
Once you are clear about the above:
– Before going for any bike, shortlist similar motorcycles in the same segment and test ride all of them. A test ride gets you up and close with your future bike and lets you know the vital aspects of riding such as seat comfort, riding position, braking, acceleration, handling and the like; the things you will never get to know watching video reviews or reading online articles.
– Enquire about its annual maintenance costs, reliability, availability of spare parts, nearest service center and the like, from the showroom and online motorcycling forums. Ask yourself if you can afford its ongoing maintenance costs.
- How do I compare a motorcycle with another?
Compare motorcycles within the same category – cruiser with cruiser, sport with sport, standard with standard and the like. Different categories of motorcycles cannot be directly compared with each other because each type of bike is built for a specific purpose.
- Is handling heavy motorcycles a problem?
If you practice the basic maneuvers such as slow speed riding, panic braking, U turns, etc. under proper guidance, they will not be a problem. Just make sure to not lean the motorcycle excessively during slow speed maneuvers; and to NOT use the front brake aggressively. Handling a heavy motorcycle will become easier as you start riding more frequently.
Here’s an article about handling a heavy motorcycle properly.
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